Pence says Venezuela vote a 'sham'

Nicolás Maduro

"For us, there were no elections".

The news of Maduro's re-election aroused his supporters in Caracas, where hundreds of people staged a dance near the presidential palace.

Venezuelan presidential candidate Henri Falcon departs after speaking about the results of the election at Falcon's press center in Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2018.

"We won again! We triumphed again!"

'I'm voting because the opposition doesn't have any proposals for what we're going to do when Maduro wins today. In the last opinion polls before the vote, the pair were running neck-and-neck.

Falcon was joined in his call for a new election by third-place finisher Javier Bertucci, who got around 11 percent of the vote.

Previous presidential elections were held in Venezuela in 2013, after the death of President Hugo Chavez.

Hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, rising crime and broken water, power and transport networks have sparked violent unrest, and left Maduro with a 75 per cent disapproval rating. Falcón had won 21.2 per cent - 1.8 million votes. Just over 46% of citizens came to polling stations. Maduro's leading challenger has questioned the legitimacy of the vote and called for new balloting.

"The United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their courageous people continues".

"Sham elections change nothing".

Falcon's team said it received about 900 complaints about the 'red points.' Several state workers also told Reuters they were pressured to vote, while pro-government activists hovered around some polling stations, saying they were assisting voters.

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Widespread concern was expressed about the fact that mainly poor Venezuelans were asked to scan state-issued "fatherland cards" at specially installed red tents after voting in hope of receiving a "prize".

Mr Falcon called for a new vote, complaining about the government's placing of almost 13,000 pro-government stands called "red spots" close to polling stations nationwide.

Venezuela's other main political parties boycotted the vote.

He said Venezuelans would provide an example of democracy to the world and brushed back suggestions he was taking the country down an authoritarian path.

Aware of the popular mood, Maduro had vowed an "economic revolution" if reelected.

Falcon campaigned on a platform to revamp the Venezuelan economy.

The opposition, a part of which boycotted the elections, stated that the ballot was accompanied with massive violations. Even as voting was taking place on Sunday, a senior U.S. official said the Trump administration might press ahead on threats of imposing crippling oil sanctions, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned "sham elections change nothing".

Maduro immediately called for dialogue with his presidential opponents. Protests in 2017, still fresh in the collective memory, left around 125 people dead.

Despite his unpopularity over the OPEC member's economic meltdown, the 55-year-old former bus driver was benefiting from a boycott by the mainstream opposition, a ban on his two most popular rivals, and state institutions in loyalists' hands.

Despite holding the world's largest oil reserves, the country faces ruin, with the International Monetary Fund citing a 45 percent drop in GDP under Maduro.

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